OSLO, 16 June 2015 – H.E. Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General of ASEAN called on Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway yesterday where they discussed the increasing importance of ASEAN-Norway trade and investment relations. Both sides deliberated on the ways to strengthen and possibly formalise this relationship, noting that ASEAN integration has created opportunities for further collaboration, while leveraging also on Norway’s expertise and competence in the oil and gas, maritime and green industries. Norway expressed interest in ASEAN’s handling of the irregular migration issue, noting a parallel with Europe’s management of the refugee crisis.

SG Minh was in Norway at the invitation of the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to deliver a keynote address at the ASEAN-Norway Business Conference: Introducing the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). SG Minh also delivered an address at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs focusing on ASEAN as regional political actor. Both conferences highlighted the immense progress made by ASEAN in both economic and political integration and the advancement of ASEAN as a key regional and global player through its vital role in strengthening the economic dynamism in Southeast Asia and in maintaining a region of peace and stability.

Further, SG Minh held meetings with H.E. Ms. Monica Mæland, Minister of Trade and Industry, and H.E. Børge Brende, Minister of Foreign Affairs, of Norway. During these meetings, both sides discussed the increasing importance of Norway-ASEAN relations nothing that there are more than 250 Norwegian companies in ASEAN employing more than 20,000 people.

Prior to his visit to Norway, SG Minh delivered several keynote addresses at business forums in Copenhagen and London. The key takeaways from these events are that European business interest in ASEAN is growing, catalysed by the imminent launch of the ASEAN Community. The business sector was pleased with ASEAN’s progress but expressed the hope that ASEAN integration will continue to progress post-2015 including in addressing trade facilitation and non-tariff barriers.

In Copenhagen, SG Minh delivered a keynote speech at the inaugural ASEAN Forum and Lecture series, initiated by the ASEAN Committee in Copenhagen in collaboration with Asia House Denmark. In his speech, SG Minh remarked that “2015 is a particularly important year for ASEAN as we are moving closer towards the realisation of an ASEAN Community. This will not only be a historic milestone for ASEAN, but it also spells exciting times ahead.” He further added that ASEAN is a success story having survived difficult circumstances. ASEAN has contributed to increased mutual confidence, developed a culture of consultations, forged consensus and focused on creating a peaceful and stable environment in the region for development.

In his meeting with State Secretary for Development of Denmark, Mr Martin Bille Hermann, it was highlighted that ASEAN is a region of great potential as well as of great interest and is providing win-win opportunities for both ASEAN and the Danish companies.

In London, SG Minh participated in the business roundtables with representatives of key British companies with investment in ASEAN hosted by Asia House UK as well as the Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Alan Yarrow. In these sessions, it was highlighted that ASEAN is moving in the right direction and is providing enormous benefits as well as creating great potential to businesses and investors. The business sector urged ASEAN to intensify economic liberalisation and facilitation initiatives post-2015. The business community was also keenly interested in enhancing ASEAN-UK trade and investment relations including through the resumption of the ASEAN-EU FTA. The importance of people-to-people linkages were also highlighted including through more education, exchange programmes and relaxation of visa requirements.

SG Minh also delivered a keynote address at the Signature Conference organised by Asia House UK. SG Minh emphasised that “enhanced political cohesion, economic integration and social responsibility and greater physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity, have put ASEAN in good stead towards 2015.” Such regional integration has and will continue to benefit not only ASEAN and its people, but also the business and international community, noting that more awareness is being created on ASEAN including through publications such as the KPMG report on “MNCs in Southeast Asia: The View of Multinationals in ASEAN,” which was launched at the same conference.

In his meeting with the UK Minister of State Mr. Hugo Swire, views were exchanged on the progress of the AEC and the growing opportunities for UK businesses and the need to further enhance awareness. They also discussed maritime security including the South China Sea issue and the problem of irregular migration in Southeast Asia where ASEAN’s central role in their resolution is seen to be critical.

SG Minh also held wide-ranging discussions with ASEAN Committees in Copenhagen, London and Oslo. It was noted that these committees were playing an increasingly important role in promoting ASEAN business interests and the strengthening of ASEAN relations with host countries.